What Is Privileged Identity Management?

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on March 4, 2024

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What Is Privileged Identity Management?

Every organization has to assign privileges to its user accounts. Good security practice requires each account to have only the privileges necessary for the role it’s assigned to.

Ideally, that means only a few accounts have wide-ranging privileges capable of significantly changing the organization’s security configuration. These typically include systems administrators, database administrators, and service accounts.

These accounts are especially vulnerable to security and compliance risks. Privileged Identity Management (PIM) platforms allow security leaders to govern, track, and manage these accounts using a centralized solution.

Understanding the Basics of PIM

Security leaders want to minimize the number of users who have access to sensitive data and assets. This reduces the risk of threat actors gaining access to those assets, and reduces the risk of accidental misconfiguration as well.

But even a small organization can have dozens of different tools in its tech stack, with multiple levels of privileged access for each. As the organization expands, its privileged identity management needs grow exponentially. Keeping track of all the privileged accounts is an incredibly complicated task.

Modern privileged identity management solutions provide a single resource for managing the assets that privileged users can access. This protects the organization from the risks associated with unmanaged privileged identities — like insider threats and compromised credential attacks.

Why Is Privileged Identity Management Important?

Privileged identity management solutions help organizations reduce the risk associated with data breaches and non-compliance. When security teams can track and monitor activity associated with privileged accounts, they are much more likely to detect malicious behavior that might indicate one of those accounts was compromised.

The cybersecurity industry is beginning to focus more on adopting Zero Trust architecture and identity-based detection and response. Privileged identity management has an important role to play verifying the actions of authorized accounts when interacting with highly sensitive data and assets.

The Significance of PIM in Today’s Cybersecurity Landscape

Here are some of the threats, risks, and vulnerabilities that security teams can address by managing privileged identities more carefully:

  • Lack of visibility into privileged users and assets. Organizations that lack a comprehensive inventory of account privileges won’t be able to establish a consistent policy for securing privileged accounts and assets.
  • Insider threats. Attackers are more likely to target privileged accounts that give them the ability to disable security features and exfiltrate data more easily.
  • Overprovisioning of new accounts. Overly restrictive privilege controls can disrupt user workflows, so many IT leaders feel pressure to overprovision new accounts with privileges they don’t need, expanding the organization’s attack surface.

Key Features of Privileged Identity Management Solutions

Modern, enterprise-ready privileged identity management tools must provide the following features to security teams:

  • Comprehensive discovery of privileged accounts on every platform and application in the environment.
  • Centralized provisioning and management of privileged account configurations.
  • Role-based authorization for privileged accounts, enabling security teams to enforce the principle of least privilege.
  • Temporary privilege assignment capabilities for third-party vendors, independent contractors, and employees who need one-time access.
  • Tracking and monitoring for all privileged account activity, with comprehensive log data showing who accessed those accounts, when access occurred, and what happened during the session.
  • Reporting and auditing for critical security events associated with privileged accounts, like login events, access requests, and configuration changes.

Exploring the Essential Components of PIM Tools

Privileged identity management solutions won’t improve operational security without key integrations and features. Security leaders considering a PIM implementation should look for these must-have features:

  • Identity and access management (IAM) integration. IAM platforms allow organizations to assign roles to entire user groups and provision them accordingly. If these roles include privileged access, they must be governed by an integrated privileged identity management solution.
  • Support for multi-factor authentication (MFA). Adding additional authentication steps to privileged accounts helps reduce the risk of credential-based attacks, putting an extra step between attackers and their goals.
  • Compliance-ready audit and reporting functionality. Implementing privileged identity management is often an important step on the way to achieving important security compliance standards. To comply with regulatory requirements, you will need to demonstrate that your PIM solution is working as expected.

Pricing Options for Every Organization

Packages and A La Carte Pricing

Benefits of Implementing Privileged Identity Management

Gaining visibility and control into privileged account activities provides organizations with valuable benefits. It allows the security team to reduce the risk of catastrophic data breaches occurring through the abuse of privileged accounts and improve the efficiency of privileged account provisioning.

It also simplifies compliance with regulatory standards that require visibility into privileged accounts. For organizations that capture and process sensitive data, having oversight into how privileged users interact with that data is vital to operational security.

How PIM Can Enhance Security and Efficiency

Organizations that successfully implement PIM technology enjoy a minimized attack surface. When combined with Zero Trust network segmentation principles, it creates an environment that is very difficult for external attackers to navigate without detection.

Having consistent access policies also makes it much easier for IT leaders to streamline privileged access workflows and approvals. It opens up the way for automated password management and rotation processes, as well as efficient de-provisioning of inactive accounts.

Best Practices for Privileged Identity Management

To make the most of privileged identity management, you should combine the technology with an organization-wide commitment to Zero Trust and use it to enforce the principle of least privilege. Additional technology deployments like user entity and behavioral analytics (UEBA) can make it much harder for threat actors to manipulate users and assets without setting off alarms in the process.

The security team should also have standardized change management procedures for reviewing and updating access policies. As the organization grows and changes over time, its identity management policies are likely to require adjustment as well.

Tips for Effective PIM Implementation and Maintenance

PIM implementation isn’t just a security issue. It extends to every team in the organization. Every team member who accesses sensitive information should receive training on privileged identity management concepts and understand the role they play ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data.

Security teams should also dedicate resources to monitoring and analyzing privileged access logs. This is a difficult and time-consuming manual process, but it can be automated through the use of a properly configured security information and event management (SIEM) platform.

Combining PIM technology with a robust security tech stack will allow the team to contextualize privileged identity activity throughout the environment. This will make it much easier to investigate unusual behavior once it’s detected.

Choosing the Right Privileged Identity Management Solution

The ideal PIM solution aligns with your organization’s goals and long-term strategy, providing a scalable solution for provisioning and governing privileged accounts as the organization grows. It must also integrate with your existing tech stack and augment your security capabilities efficiently.

To choose a solution that scales and integrates well, you’ll need in-depth knowledge about the current state of your overall security posture. You must identify the security gaps you need PIM technology to fill before selecting a vendor and entrusting them with the responsibility to fill those gaps.

Modern Privileged Identity Management

Your privileged identity management solution plays an important role in your overall identity governance strategy. Managing privileged access is vital to protecting sensitive assets from compromised accounts, malicious insiders, and other complex threats.

Consider implementing a comprehensive identity, access, and device management solution that allows you to verify access requests, secure sensitive resources, and monitor and audit account usage at the identity level. JumpCloud’s privileged identity management capabilities can be a powerful asset in your organization’s security tech stack.

As a cloud-based platform built for modern IT environments, JumpCloud provides the freedom to integrate the tooling of your choice and gain comprehensive visibility and control over identities, authentication protocols, security policies, plus macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux devices.

Get started for free today and discover the possibilities for yourself.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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